Image: Brendan Fraser
Giacinta Pace
Brendan Fraser attends a special screening of the film "Extraordinary Measures" in New York City on Jan. 21.
NBC News
updated 2/4/2010 11:16:30 AM ET 2010-02-04T16:16:30

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with actor Brendan Fraser, director Tom Vaughan, singer Jay Sean, and actress Reshma Shetty about the film "Extraordinary Measures."

Based on a true story, the movie depicts the efforts of John Crowley to try to save his two youngest children, Megan and Patrick, after they are diagnosed with a fatal disease. Teaming up with scientist Dr. Robert Stonehill, played by Harrison Ford, Crowley forms a biotech company with the goal of discovering the drug that would save his children’s lives. The special screening of the film on Jan. 21 in New York City was to honor the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening diseases.

We also speak to the real-life Crowley family. Aside from Make-a-Wish, which has granted the wishes of both Megan and Patrick Crowley, the family also works with other charitable organizations including MDA, the United Pompe Foundation and the Children’s Rare Disease Network.

Fraser has graced the screen since the 90s with his first starring role in "Encino Man." Other film credits include "George from the Jungle," "Gods and Monsters," "Crash," and the "Mummy" films.

Tom Vaughan directed "Extraordinary Measures" and has worked in both television and film.

Jay Sean shot to fame in the U.K. and has recently crossed over to the States with his hit single “Down” featuring Lil’ Wayne. His newest single is “Do You Remember” featuring Sean Paul and Lil Jon.

Reshma Shetty appears as a regular on the USA Network show "Royal Pains." She has also toured with the musical "Bombay Dreams."

Brendan Fraser

Q: How are you like your character, John Crowley?

Fraser: I am a father of three. I can’t think of any fit parent who wouldn’t do anything for their sons and daughters.

Q: What did you learn from making the movie?

Fraser: I learned a bit about science and technology, what’s really behind research and development in big pharmaceutical companies. I learned that they may be vilified sometimes, but that’s not necessarily the case, they actually really do care. They know that this is about saving people’s lives or bettering them, whereas it’s common thought that it’s not. I know that because John is among those, he runs his own biotech. That was new for me.

Tom Vaughan

Q: What was the most exciting part of making this film?

Vaughan: Meeting the Crowleys, being a part of their life, and having a chance to tell their story on-screen. That was the new element for me. Quite apart from working with a fantastic cast, Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser, I guess it was the fact that it’s a story based on real people, which is a whole new aspect to filmmaking that I’ve never had to experience before. Getting that right was the challenge. Making sure that you made a good movie, an entertaining movie, but that also captured the truth of the story.

We weren’t making a documentary, and the Crowleys knew that — we were happy we weren’t making a documentary. It was very much a case of us all wanting to make the same sort of movie and to tell that story in a way that works for the screen, as something that people could experience together in a movie theater, as a sort of shared movie experience.

Q: What did you learn from making the film?

Vaughan: I always learn things. Specifically … I’m not thinking of sort of anything like, “Ahh! Now I know that.” Just confirms the usual things … if you get the casting right, it’s 99 percent of directing the actors.

Jay Sean

Q: What brings you out here tonight?

Sean: I’m here to see this film, which is based on a true story as you know. But the reason I really want to watch this is because I actually came from a medical background myself. I was halfway through medicine, so I was going to be a doctor. Science for me is always going to be something I find super, super fascinating. The fact that it’s a true story too — incredible.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for celebrities to get involved with charities?

Sean: Because, you know why, our lives are extremely self-absorbed. Every time we’re doing interviews, we’re talking about ourselves, and everything we do is pretty much about ourselves. Sometimes, I think there are a lot of celebrities, like Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie] who have so much money, who probably feel like “you know what, we don’t need all of this.”

You do get this feeling, like “it’s too much adulation” and it’s not stupid, but it’s like you need to give. Some people I know don’t care, don’t want to give. But, I know that, for us, the good people, when you know that you can make a difference, and it’s not going to break the bank, just do it.

Reshma Shetty

Q: Why did you decide to attend the screening tonight?

Shetty: I’m here to support the movie. Movies have lots of things that we have to do, like we kind of have to entertain, but also to tell stories like this, which move, and I’m excited to see this.

Q: Why should celebrities be involved with causes?

Shetty: I kind of feel that if you are in a position to be seen, whether you are an actor or an activist, and people will listen to you, then I feel like it’s kind of a slight duty to stand up for things and be a face for things that you believe in … and hope to bring more people who kind of love your character on a show and maybe will listen to you saying, “all right let’s help people in Haiti.”

Image: Crowley family
Giacinta Pace
The Crowley family, which inspired the film "Extraordinary Measures." From rear left, John and Aileen Crowley and first son John Jr. In foreground are daughter Megan and son Patrick, who were diagnosed with Pompe disease.

John Crowley

Q: For people out there who may be going through something similar, what has been the most important thing you learned from this journey you have been on?

John Crowley: I think determination, and never never quit is probably one thing that certainly marks the kids’ amazing confidence, and courage, and character, and that’s the thing we learned most about them

Q: What can people do to help and to get involved?

Crowley: There are so many ways to get involved. There are 7,000 rare genetic diseases that together affect more than 30 million people just in the United States, so we have a long way to go.

Getting involved with organizations like the Children’s Rare Disease Network, with the National Organization of Rare Disorders, NORD, there’s many many groups that make a difference for people. For us, the United Pompe Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the group we’re honoring tonight, which is the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Q: What advice can you share with families who may be going through a similar situation?

Crowley: I think it’s a balance and that’s why we wrote the book "Chasing Miracles," and that really is about, yes, chasing the miracles of treatments and cures, but these are also our little miracles.

Interviews by Giacinta Pace and introduction by Elizabeth Chang.

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